Dwight Anderson makes no apologies but that’s okay. His new bosses aren’t making any either.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders raised a few eyebrows on the opening day of CFL free agency by signing Anderson, the league’s reigning bad boy, to a contract which lured the star defensive back away from the Montreal Alouettes where Anderson has spent the past two years.
The move polarized the Rider Nation in the first few days with the majority of fans giving the move the ‘thumbs-up’, while almost as many cried afoul. After all, Anderson has pretty much been Public Enemy #1 around here for the past several years, save for Henry Burris.
Why? Because Anderson got under the skin of the Riders and their fans perhaps like nobody else ever has. Whether it was a crippling hit on kicker Luca Congi in 2010, an eye-gouge of Weston Dressler in 2011 or his mock machine-gunning of the Mosaic Stadium stands each time he’s here, Anderson always makes his presence known. A lot of citizens of the Rider Nation have let their feelings on the trade be known as well.
“Man it’s been crazy but it’s been good,” Anderson laughed this week. “The response you hear, but you expect that. I’ve been a pro for awhile now so that’s nothing new.
“We had a lot of battles with the Riders when I was with Calgary so the feelings were sparked from there. I understand but at the end of the day, it’ll just take for people to get to know me that you’ll see a whole different side of Dwight and you’ll find out.”
As far as his image of being a CFL bad boy goes, the man they call “D.A.” isn’t buying into that either.
“I think some of it’s unfair but at the end of the day I can’t control how people feel,” Anderson explained. “I do what I do and that’s how I go about it. You have the right to pass your judgment. But like I say, when you get to know me, you’ll do a 360. When I’m off the field, I like to chill, relax, but when I’m on the field I’ve prepared all week and I take that serious. My preparation has to be on top of the key and that’s where Corey (Chamblin) was a big influence. A lot of people may take it as ignorance or cockiness but I’ll do whatever I have to within the rules to take care of my business.”
As for his long-standing on-field feud with Roughrider MVP Weston Dressler, that’s in the past as far as Anderson is concerned.
“Me and Dressler have been going at it for years,” Anderson continued. “I respect him for the simple fact that the competition was always good. I knew when I lined up against him I was going to get a good run and he got the best of me.”
The same goes for Dressler, who I’m told gave the acquisition of Anderson his blessing. If it helps the Roughriders win a Grey Cup, he’s all for it.
And that’s the primary reason Anderson was brought to Saskatchewan anyways; to fortify the secondary in this monumental season in which Saskatchewan will play host to the Grey Cup. Any lingering ill-will against Anderson was no concern to the man who pulled the trigger on the acquisition.
“I guess as an opponent, he wasn’t well-received,” shrugged Roughrider GM Brendan Taman. “Hopefully they (the fans) like him if he makes plays. That’s all I care about. Our job is to win games, not to win a popularity contest.”
Taman said there were several factors that made the signing of Anderson attractive. He took a paycut to come here and he has a close association with Rider head coach Corey Chamblin.
“I had other offers from Montreal, BC and Toronto that I could have taken but Corey Chamblin was a big reason why,” Anderson explained. “I took off in the league under Corey. He groomed my game and at the end of the day I felt that this was a great situation. I know his defense and what he expects from his players. I’ll come in and do what I do and shut things down.
“Corey’s been a big influence on and off the field. He’s just a good man and it’s great to be back with him. The team’s going after another championship and it don’t matter what the colour of uniform is. I don’t care where I’m at, I’m going to represent that team and play 120% every play.”
So it was another unexpected move by Taman, much like the trade to acquire Geroy Simon last month. It has also set tongues wagging that the Riders are going for broke as Grey Cup hosts in 2013 but Taman dismissed the notion. He said he would have made these moves whether they were hosting the Grey Cup or not.
“Yah we would have because we gotta win,” Taman countered. “Halfback was a position we had to address and we got two of the better guys. Geroy is self-explanatory. You always have to win. The urgency of the Grey Cup doesn’t change too much.”
As for “D.A.”, he has a message for the members of the Rider Nation who are still ruffled that he’s now on their side.
“Don’t pass judgment so fast,” Anderson smiled. “Just relax. It’ll be alright.”
Rod Pedersen is the Voice of the Saskatchewan Roughriders on 620 CKRM. You can check out his award-winning blog at www.rodpedersen.com. Follow Rod on Twitter @sportscage.